Although some applications for disability are approved based on their initial application and medical records, most individuals who are approved for benefits will ultimately need to appear before an Administrative Law Judge. The Administrative Law Judge that hears your case is a Social Security Administration employee who hears nothing but cases involving disability benefits. Different judges have different styles. Some judges will allow the claimant’s attorney to elicit all or most of the testimony from their client, while other judges will ask many, many questions.
If you suffer from one or more mental health conditions and have a disability hearing coming up, or are just at the stage of considering applying for disability, you may wonder what you will be asked about at the hearing. I would argue that the types of questions you will be asked break down into two broad camps- 1) questions about your past work and 2) questions about the symptoms of your mental health condition(s).
Generally, the judge will ask you some questions about your past work in order to get at the heart of what your past employment involved both from a physical and mental standpoint. This is important because in almost every disability case, you will at least need to prove that your disability prevents you from performing your past work that was done in the last 15 years. Based on your age, education, and the past work, you may also need to rule out your ability to perform other types of work. A vocational expert at the hearing will help classify that work and give opinions on how different physical and mental limitations would impact the ability to do your past work or other work (the vocational expert is the subject of other blogs on our cite!)
In a case that involves mental health impairments, the judge will want to know about how your daily life is impacted by your symptoms. The judge is trying to pin down whether your ability to work or do certain types of work would be impacted by these symptoms. The judge may ask you about what you do all day, whether or not you have any friends, if you visit relatives, and questions of the like. The judge or your attorney is also likely to ask if you have any difficulties with attending to personal cares (i.e. are you getting dressed, showered, brushing your teeth?), or any difficulties getting along with others. You may also be asked about whether you have days that you spend in bed and about whether or not you have issues with concentration or attending to/finishing certain tasks as a result of your symptoms. All of these questions are intended to help determine whether you could show up to work regularly, stay on task, finish assignments, get along with others, and maintain concentration.